SpaceX's list of Starship customers is growing steadily ahead of orbital launch

The fully reusable Starship could launch as soon as next month.
Chris Young
Starship undergoing a "static fire" engine test.
Starship undergoing a "static fire" engine test.


Another private customer has signed up to use SpaceX's fully reusable Starship rocket.

Sky Perfect JSat penned a contract with SpaceX to launch its Superbird-9 communications satellite to geosynchronous transfer orbit in 2024, the company announced in a press release.

The Tokyo-based firm revealed little about the specifics of the deal. However, according to Sky Perfect JSAT, Superbird-9 is a high-throughput satellite that "will deliver broadcast and broadband missions in Ku band primarily over Japan and Eastern Asia, in response to mobility and broadband demands."

Starship: SpaceX's next-generation launch vehicle

Sky Perfect JSat joins a growing list of companies and organizations putting their faith in Starship before it's even reached orbit. NASA, for example, has already penned a $2.9 billion agreement with SpaceX to build a Starship model capable of landing astronauts on the moon for its Artemis III mission. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has also booked a Starship trip around the moon for his dearMoon mission.

NASA's Artemis III mission is setting its sights on a 2025 or 2026 launch date, while the dearMoon mission is currently scheduled for 2023. The dearMoon launch date is fast approaching, though it will only take flight if and when Starship is operational.

Starship is SpaceX's next-generation launch vehicle. It will drastically reduce the cost of launches by being fully reusable. That substantial cost reduction is something SpaceX and its CEO Elon Musk hopes will allow it to send astronauts to Mars.

The launch system comprises a massive first-stage booster, called Super Heavy, and a 165-foot-tall (50 meters) upper-stage called Starship. Both will be powered by SpaceX's next-gen engines, with Starship using six Raptor engines and Super Heavy boasting 33. As a point of comparison, SpaceX's partially reusable Falcon 9 rocket uses 10 Merlin engines.

SpaceX prepares for Starship orbital maiden flight

SpaceX is preparing for Starhip's orbital maiden flight, having secured Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) approval in June following the government agency's environmental review of the spacecraft. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also recently granted SpaceX a radio-spectrum license application, with a launch window starting on September 1.

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While that doesn't guarantee we will see the launch of Starship on that date, it does mean it's a possibility — especially as the private space firm has recently conducted "static fire" engine tests with both its first-stage Super Heavy booster, called Booster 7, and its Starship prototype, dubbed Ship 24.

When Starship eventually flies to orbit, it will do so from SpaceX's South Texas launch facility. It may take off after NASA's upcoming Artemis I mission — launched aboard the U.S. space agency's Space Launch System (SLS) — but it very much represents the next exciting step for spaceflight, as it will be the first fully reusable orbital launch system in history.

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